CHICAGO – Joined by Chicago’s professional women’s basketball coach and gold-medal players, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon declared today “Title IX Day” in Illinois in honor of the legislation’s 40th anniversary and its impact on women and girls throughout the country.
Enacted on June 23, 1972, Title IX banned discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded school in the United States. Though Title IX opened new academic and employment opportunities to women and girls, the law is best known for its impact on women’s sports.
Nationally, the number of high school girls participating in sports has risen tenfold in the past 40 years, while participation in Illinois is up nearly 60 percent since 1989, the first year any participation data was tracked by the Illinois High School Association. Prior to Title IX, tennis was the only sport sanctioned for girls’ statewide competition in Illinois; today girls’ teams compete in 15 sports, ranging from badminton to basketball.
“Title IX helped women ‘get in the game’ not only in sports, but in academic and professional pursuits,” said Simon, who competed on Wittenberg University’s first women’s indoor track team in 1980. “It opened the door to gymnasiums and science labs, kept girls in school and on career paths, and put their dreams within reach.”
Chicago Sky Head Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman considers herself a direct beneficiary of Title IX. As a basketball player with Louisiana State University in 1991, Chatman lead her team to LSU’s first Southeastern Conference tournament championship and was named the team’s MVP. Chatman has been with the Sky since 2010 and was joined by Sky center Ruth Riley and forward Swin Cash, both Olympic gold medal winners, at Wednesday’s event. The Sky joined the WNBA in 2005 and is ranked second in the Eastern Conference with a 7-2 record so far this season.
“Title IX has been incredibly important to me throughout my career,” Chatman said. “From being a college athlete to coaching professionally, I know that Title IX helped me become the person I am today. I’m particularly thankful I had a front row seat to witness some of the pioneers in women’s sports such as Sue Gunter and Pat Summitt. We still have a lot of work to do but it’s important on this anniversary that we reflect on the good Title IX has done and keep the conversation going about what more we can do.”
In recognition of Title IX, Chatman named nine female leaders, players, coaches and advocates to the Sky’s honorary Title IX team, which will be showcased during a halftime reception August 17. The members are: Margaret Stender, chairwoman, former president and CEO of the Chicago Sky; Sarah Spain, ESPN/ESPNW contributor and reporter; Amy Skeen, president and CEO of Girls in the Game; Lisa Cole, founder of the Chicago Force; Julie Foudy, member of USA Women’s Soccer Team; Peg Kopec, volleyball coach at St. Francis High School in Wheaton; Ramelia Williams, former Chicago director of Go Girl Go!; Maria Wynne, CEO for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana; and Lt. Governor Simon.
As an undergraduate student at Wittenberg University in Ohio, Simon received All-American honors in high jump and set still-standing records in indoor and outdoor high jump, two of the three longest-standing records in track history at the school. Because the school had no women’s indoor track team, Simon competed on the men’s indoor team during her freshman year and was a member of the school’s inaugural women’s indoor team the following year.
Though Title IX has allowed for a great deal of expansion of women’s sports at all levels, opportunities are still lacking for girls from minority or low-income backgrounds, Simon noted. A 2007 U.S. Department of Education report stated that on average, 51 percent of white female high school sophomores participate in sports. That figure drops to 40 percent for African Americans and 32 percent for Latinos.
“Today we celebrate how far we have come in the 40 years since Title IX enactment, but this should serve as a reminder for how much more we need to do,” Simon said. “We will be able to truly celebrate when all students, no matter their zip codes, have the opportunity to excel on and off the field.”